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Colorado Air Commission Adopts Tough New Rules to Rein in Fracking Pollution
“Today’s rules are a step forward, but to truly confront Colorado’s clean air and climate challenges, much more needs to be done,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “Better regulation is critical, but ultimately the Air Commission needs to set real limits on fracking that start to wind down and ultimately phase out extraction in the state.”
Added Nichols, “Ultimately, we can’t frack our way to clean air or a safe climate.”
The Air Quality Control Commission voted today to adopt a suite of new air quality regulations for the oil and gas industry. Highlights of the new regulations include:
- The elimination of the 90-day loophole, an exemption that allowed the oil and gas industry to drill and frack without legally required air permits;
- Strengthening of pollution control requirements for tanks and other equipment at oil and gas well sites across the state; and
- More rigorous leak detection and repair requirements at oil and gas well sites and monitoring within 1,000 feet of homes and outside activity areas.
The new rules culminate a “Week of Action for Clean Air in Colorado,” which started last week when the Air Commission kicked off a series of public comment hearings where Coloradans overwhelmingly supported stronger clean air rules for the oil and gas industry.
On December 10 in Rifle, December 11 in Durango, and on December 16 in Loveland, hundreds of people showed up to speak, the vast majority voicing support for tougher rules to rein in the fracking industry’s emissions.
A newly-formed Coalition of health, environmental, and community advocates, including WildEarth Guardians, 350 Colorado, the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Communities (a.k.a. LOGIC), Colorado Rising, Climate Reality Denver-Boulder, Earthworks, and others participated in the formal rulemaking hearing as parties.
In testimony to the Air Quality Control Commission from December 17-19, the Coalition called on the Commission to adopt the most protective rules possible and to clamp down on toxic oil and gas industry pollution.
The new rules come as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week determined the Denver Metro/Colorado Front Range region should be reclassified as a “serious” nonattainment area due to ongoing violations of health limits on ground-level ozone, the key ingredient of smog.
The “serious” classification imposes tougher limits on industrial pollution and requires state regulators to more aggressively slash ozone forming emissions in the region and clear the air by July 2021.
It also underscores how bad ozone pollution is in the Denver Metro area.
Coupled with the recent passage of Senate Bill 19-181, which mandated the Air Quality Control Commission minimize emissions from the oil and gas industry to protect public health, safety, and the environment, the imperative to cut pollution is higher than ever.
Today’s rules have been deemed a “first step” to address the pollution caused by the oil and gas industry. The Air Commission has indicated it intends to undertake more aggressive rulemaking in 2020 to further reduce emissions.
“The new rules adopted today are a first step to safeguarding clean air, but much bigger steps need to be taken to effectively confront our air pollution problems and protect health,” said Nichols. “While we applaud today’s new rules, we challenge the Air Commission to think and act more boldly than ever as they tackle the oil and gas industry’s dangerous emissions.”